Google is already in the process of deploying its Hands Free program, which basically is a voice operated mobile payment app (separate from the tech giant’s own Android Pay mobile payment system) that allows consumers to pay for stuff they purchased without having to pull their smartphones out from their pocket or bag. The service is being rolled out in a pilot in the Southern San Francisco Bay Area starting this week.
Hands Free works by basically establishing a secure connection between the mobile user’s smartphone and a point of sale (POS) system. By way of the built in sensors on the handset, the POS system is made aware of the presence of the smartphone. Consumers can just walk to the cashier’s area, the Hands Free system facilitates a transaction wherein the POS system is granted the ability to charge the mobile user’s card that is tied to the mobile payment app. The consumer just informs the cashier that he is “paying with Google,” supplies his initials to the cashier who then inputs the information in order to complete the transaction. With regards to identity verification, cashiers are equipped with their own system for detecting what the consumer looks like and confirming if it is indeed the same person in the image tied to a Google account.
The main goal of Google in developing the Hands Free mobile payment app is to achieve optimum convenience in completing payment transactions. Other existing contactless modes of payment, like Apple Pay and Android Pay, essentially want to eliminate the process of having to pull out one’s wallet and pay using a credit card. But with these systems, one still has to wave one’s smartphone in order to facilitate payment. Hands Free takes it further by auto detecting a compatible handset and matching it to a person’s Google profile and then proceeding with the payment process via the credit card tied to the user’s credentials.
Interestingly, Google is not the first to explore voice operated mobile payment tools. As a matter of fact back in 2011, Square tried it with a mobile app called Square Wallet. The app allowed mobile users to pay by just saying their name to the cashier. However, only a very few retailers jumped into the program, which basically meant the app was all but useless to most consumers. As a result, Square was forced to shut down the app in 2014.
Obviously, Google’s Hands Free does not just rely on names when verifying the identity of the consumer. Apart from the use of initials and cross referencing of images tied to Google accounts, the tech giant is also exploring ways in which it can use in store cameras to further make sure identities are verified properly. Google is guaranteeing that pictures and information from these cameras will be erased immediately and will be made inaccessible by the stores.
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